Seeing Jesus…in court

John 18:28-40

christ_before_pilate_largeWe find Jesus under fire today – put on trial.  The chief priests have brought Jesus to be questioned by Pilate.  Now, Pilate was the governor and, as we heard in the scripture today, only he can sentence someone to death by crucifixion.  And Pilate had a reputation for brutality.

The chief priests — the religious officials —  are the ones who brought Jesus to be tried.  But, in order to preside at worship, to celebrate the Passover, which is what they’re preparing for, they can’t enter the political headquarters and still lead worship.


Pilate asks plainly for what the charges against Jesus are, and they avoid that question and cast their judgment:

gavel on white background

They say: We wouldn’t have brought him to you if he weren’t a criminal!

Pilate even tries to give Jesus back to them.  Well, if you’ve got this figured out, you take him and judge him.

The honesty with which they respond is breath taking:  Yah, but only you have the legal authority to kill him. We can’t kill him! 

The back and forth between Pilate and Jesus goes on like this:

Pilate begins with an identity question: so, are you the king of the Jews?

And, in typical Jesus fashion, he answers the question with a question:  basically, he responds with, who is asking? you or did other people tell you to ask?

Pilate responds with, how am I supposed to know – I’m not a Jew. Your own people brought you here.

And Jesus basically says, yah, but I’m not from here.  My kingdom isn’t located here.

Pilate responds, so you’re a king then!

And Jesus simply says, you say I am a king.

And this is where the rubber meets the road:  I was born for this.  I came into the world to point to the truth, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.

That should clear it right up, right?

Think of all the versions of truth we know

judge-judyDo you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?





yellowtrace_David-Foster-WallaceOr this quote, made famous by author David Foster Wallace




































hqdefaultIf you were asked, “tell me the truth about being a Christian?”  what would you say.  What is the Truth with a capital T for you when it comes to following Jesus?  When it comes to a life of faith?  Is it about what Jesus does or what you do?  Is it about how the church interprets Jesus?  Is it about salvation or the here and now?





Earlier this week, my brother-in-law, Lars, shared a video on-line entitled: This Is A Generic Brand Video.  You can watch it here.  (Remember – swears.) I would show it to you now, but there’s one very clear swear word that I just couldn’t bring myself to play for you in this worship.  So instead I’ll describe it to you. Narrated by Sam Elliot who has a deep, down home kind of voice.  He proceeds to basically describe what you’re seeing: cascading waterfalls, people playing or walking, dad’s relating to kids, animals frolicking, scientists in a lab.  But not only is he describing what we’re seeing, he’s also lifting the curtain on what we might think when we see those images: that what your selling or the company that is selling it cares about the environment or really cares about your relationship with your son.  And it was startling to me that, along with music, those visuals told me something about myself.  Or, at least something I’d want to believe to be true about myself and the world.

Visual imagery along with music evoke all kinds of associations that we aren’t consciously aware of.  And we categorize those things as somehow true.  Maybe not capital T truth, but true enough.

hqdefaultThe truth with a capital T that Jesus is on trial for – well, it’s the kind of truth that gets you killed.  It’s the kind of truth that changes the way you see everything.

It’s the kind of truth that makes the man who was once blind unrecognizable to you now that he can see because he’s not longer an outsider.

It’s the kind of truth that resurrects Lazarus from the dead.

It’s the kind of truth that reveals a woman who was ignored and shut out by her own community as a truth-teller.

It’s the kind of truth that gets the religious types all bent out of shape because it loosens God up to be free in the world, interacting with people, changing people’s lives. It threatens everything.

It’s the truth that causes Jesus’ own community to demand a criminal is released instead.

We’re headed toward Easter, folks.  But before you can ever get to Easter, you have to go through this trial and Good Friday, and the dark and deafening silence of Holy Saturday.  We’re right in the midst of this story.  And this is our story that tells the truth, with a capital T.

Because how our story about truth differs from all those examples of truth is that for Christians, truth is a person, not a proposition or a philosophical approach, or a memorable movie line.  Not a way of thinking but a way of life. We find truth in Jesus, and so that takes us, today, to the court room where truth is present in the person of Jesus and is unrecognizable.  Our story and God’s story takes us right to the cross where we find a God who won’t lift his voice to defend himself or to condemn us.  Instead, the ultimate judgment is one of love. 

And that’s the truth.